Skip to main content

Defending the Arctic Refuge from Oil & Gas Drilling

An aerial view of a braided river in the Arctic Refuge.

The unspoiled 19 million acres of tundra, rivers and mountains of the Arctic Refuge shelter migratory birds from all 50 states and six continents each summer. To the Gwich’in people of northeast Alaska, this is sacred ground.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

What’s at Stake

To the Gwich’in people of northeast Alaska, this is sacred ground.

Emissions from oil and gas development would exacerbate the climate crisis and raise global sea levels. Melting permafrost could release large amounts of methane, which is roughly 30 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Overview

Generations of Americans have protected the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development.

The Arctic Refuge, which spans 19 million acres across northeast Alaska, is one of the planet’s last fully intact wild landscapes. The region's tundra, rivers, and mountains shelter migratory birds from all 50 states and six continents each summer. Grizzlies, wolverines, musk ox, and tens of thousands of caribou also call the Refuge home.

Scientists believe that if we’re to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it is essential to keep Arctic fossil fuel reserves in the ground. There currently is no oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge.

Political leaders have repeatedly determined that drilling in the Refuge is a terrible idea. Yet, in 2017, then-President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill that used backdoor budgetary tactics to open the Refuge’s coastal plain to oil and gas drilling.

Earthjustice is working with a broad coalition of partners to oppose reckless attempts to hand over the publicly owned wilderness of the Arctic Refuge to the oil and gas industry.

Case Updates

December 15, 2020 | Legal Document

Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Halt Oil Activities in Arctic Refuge

Conservation groups represented by Earthjustice take legal action to halt the oil industry’s imminent advance into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, by asking the Court to put a freeze on oil leasing and seismic activity that would permanently mar the landscape while an existing legal challenge is underway.

December 15, 2020 | Feature

Northern Fights

By land and by sea, America’s Arctic is under attack. Earthjustice is fighting on multiple fronts to protect this irreplaceable region and keep the Arctic’s fossil fuels in the ground.